There may come a day (or night) when you and a partner decide to branch away from conventional sex and experiment with submission in bed. But before you dive into a brand new world of spanking and handcuffs and bondage, take a second to figure out what it is, exactly, that you’d like to try.
According to sex therapist Vanessa Marin, many people confuse kink, BDSM, and dominance and submission, which is why it’s crucial to ensure you’re on the same page. It’s also important to research the “how” of it all. Acts that seem straightforward, like spanking, can become unenjoyable — and even dangerous — if done improperly.
Power play — aka, the imbalanced relationship between a dominant and submissive partner — can bring up strong emotions as well, some of which you might not fully feel until hours or days later. So even though you’re excited to try submission, Marin recommends taking it slow and communicating a lot as you build trust with your partner. With that said, here are eight ways to begin experimenting with submission.
1. Have A Conversation About Submission
If you’re curious about trying out submissiveness, talk to your partner and see if they’re on board. “If they say, ‘What is that?'‘ start by reading a blog together or watch a YouTube video about it,” Amanda Pasciucco, LMFT, AASECT CST, a certified sex therapist and owner of Life Coaching and Therapy, tells Bustle. Search for information about “kink” specifically, including how to do it well and safely.
2. Pick A Safe Word
If you’re still both excited to give it a try, the next step will be talking about boundaries, including what you do and do not want to do. You’ll also need to pick a safe word — one you normally wouldn’t say during sex or during a role-play, Marin says, like “toothpick” or “baseball.”
If it’s uttered, that’s everyone’s cue to stop immediately. You can also use “green,” “yellow,” and “red,” where “green” means you’re great, “yellow” means you’re fine but approaching a boundary, and “red” means stop.
3. Try Out Role Play
It can take time to develop your submissive identity, Marin says, which is why playing a role can make it easier to come up with things to say and actions to take. Try out the dynamic of queen and servant, sergeant and private, or student and teacher.
“You can even do the scene through text or writing a Google document together first,” Pasciucco says. “Then you have an understanding of expectations and what the other person is willing to try before you make it to the bedroom.”
4. Start Off Slow
As you act out this first role play “scene,” where one of you is dominant and the other submissive, keep your expectations in check. “The goal is to explore and experiment,” Pasciucco says. “The only way to learn is to try it out, and it is rare that things go ‘right’ the first time.”
If you aren’t sure what to do, “set the bar at being curious and agreeing that you are doing this not for orgasm, but for discovery and research,” she says. That way no one will feel let down, and you’ll be more likely to try again in the future.
5. Play Around With Toys
Once you feel comfortable with role playing, consider adding BDSM toys. This is where the classic handcuffs come into play (literally), as well as blindfolds, cuffs, nipple clamps, ball gags, spreader bars, and paddles. You can also try costumes that fit with your role plays.
Bondage is a literal way to play around with control, Marin says. Your partner has an incredible amount of power if they’ve got you tied up or restrained. (Again, this is why it’s important to have trust in each other!)
6. Talk The Talk
One of the easiest ways to change up the power dynamic is by playing around with language. Address your partner as “Sir” or “Mistress.” Say “please” and “thank you.” Or speak deferentially, Marin says, with sentences like, “Please, Mistress, tell me what I can do for you” or “I exist to serve you.”
7. Ask For Permission
You can also emphasize this playful “servitude,” Marin says, by asking for a partner’s permission before you do anything in the bedroom. Try making certain things forbidden unless you’ve received explicit permission. For example, you could agree that you’re not allowed to touch yourself or not allowed to orgasm until your partner gives you the go-ahead.
8. Take It Outside Of The Bedroom
Once you’ve gotten more comfortable with power play in the bedroom, try experimenting with being your partner’s submissive as a form of foreplay. Ease into things by coming up with specific “play days” or “play hours” where you engage in domination and submission, Marin says.
During these play periods, have your partner come up with certain guidelines for your behavior, including things that are necessary and things that are forbidden. Ask their permission for anything outside of those guidelines. You could even come up with “punishments” for disobeying their instructions, like having to do their chores.
9. Check In After Role Playing
As you experiment with dominance and submission, don’t forget to check in with your partner — and with yourself — to make sure everyone feels happy and safe. Again, any type of role play or BDSM can bring up tough emotions. And you may be shocked by how you feel afterward.
It’s why Marin suggests having aftercare sessions, where you cuddle and debrief with each other. Doing so will not only ensure it remains a positive experience, but it’ll also offer a chance to reflect and chat about whether or not it’s something you’d like to keep doing. If it doesn’t feel right, that’s OK! You can stop at any time.
Vanessa Marin, sex therapist
Amanda Pasciucco, LMFT, AASECT CST, certified sex therapist
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